Umrah (Arabic: عُمرَة), an Islamic pilgrimage performed by Muslims that can be done at any time of the year (except the Hajj season). The difference between Umrah and Hajj is its duties, importance, and the way of practice. Umrah is a recommended, smaller pilgrimage. Hajj is mandatory or compulsory as it is the 5th most pillars of Islam. In this post, we will be exploring the prerequisites to the pilgrimage journey of Umrah.
What to expect during your Pilgrimage
Procedures remain similar to all nationals. However, when preparing for your pilgrimage, countries tend to have their own way of cultural approaches. The most important thing when planning your first Umrah is to ensure you have the right things and the right people around you to support. I have struggled a lot to meet my satisfactory levels as I had to deal with the local agencies while being abroad. Well, the cons of working abroad. Can you not apply within the country where you reside? See the next paragraph for the answer.
Bio-metric screening & Vaccination – At present Saudi government requires you to provide biometric fingerprints as well as take a vaccination (Meningococcal Meningitis) prior to your visit. Without these two, you’re nowhere going into the country. Speak to your local travel agencies who would do this for you and advise on the best practices. I do not know if it varies between countries, but this is a common requirement for pilgrimage.
Paperwork for Visa – Solo traveler will have less paperwork while a couple will have to submit documents including the original/translation marriage certificate. Do note, Saudi’s follow the religion to the core, hence don’t try planning such a visit with a female companion who’s not Mahram to you. This may sound stupid (due to the fact you already know), but just a precautionary note to yourself from us.
Pilgrimage Travels/Guides – Local agencies send/receive many pilgrims and have more experiences. Make use of them while doing your research, inquiring with those who performed pilgrimages, and choose one wisely. Next, ensure to understand all requirements the pilgrimage including the places the agency will take, and the accommodation they’ll provide including the meals you are entitled to. This is a must if you’re picky in food. Generally, your local travel agents serve in local cuisine. Most go in groups, and some like to stay alone. Trust me, groups may bring you to discomfort to adopt the stranger culture, but you can learn a thing or two
Accommodation & Distance – We made this a dedicated section due to the experience we had with accommodation. We suggest having a friendly word with the agency and I’m sure they’ll help you out. It turned peaceful for us, as we both go together at dawn and only return to have the meals in between. As for the distance, most Asians question the agencies. I feel pity for those agencies who must face the after consequences. Remember one thing very clearly, you asked for a closer place and the accommodation you get for what you pay will not look so nice.
Because, the closer the accommodation, the worst they can be. And they charge a hefty amount from the agencies. If you’re a young chap or if you’re in your mid-40s where you can walk, I see no issues in distancing yourselves a bit from the Masjid-Al-Haram. You won’t believe the distance people walk to get to Masjid-Al-Haram. Every day, I see them walking 2 – 5 Kilometers away from their hotels to reach Masjid’-al-Haram.
Ihram Dress – Although women have no specific restrictions, men must follow certain rules. Ihram must be clothes that are not stitched. We suggest you take a minimum of 2 sets for men as there are chances of performing two more Umrahs. Unless you are staying in a fancy hotel, chances for laundry is less.
We believe to have covered the ultimate things you need to know before prepping for your holy journey. If you have any suggestions, please let us know in the comments. We will soon share our experience, Do’s, and Dont’s during our stay in Makkah & Madina.